Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Hands-on Education

To say that this past week has been "educational" is quite the understatement. Thanks to one boss being on vacation and the other deciding to snap his ankle in half, I've been holding down the fort at work.

It went quite well, if I do say so myself.

I have learned that I can keep track of the attendance records of 50+ new starts not only on paper but in my head. I found out that I actually make some program directors try not to cringe when I walk into their offices holding my list of students on extern or of possible re-enters for next term. I discovered that all I need is a white board to help me keep track of returning students for the next five months. I uncovered the administrator within and learned how to say things like "this is unacceptable" in a tactful yet firm manner -- and get results. I even managed to delegate once in a while, despite some odd genetic tendency to avoid it at all costs.

All in all, when the bosses come back next week, they'll find that the school is still standing and that the student population remains intact.

I also learned, this past Tuesday night, that I still can't figure out my left from my right when it comes to karate. "Form 1," which my six-year-old has mastered, still escapes me. Don't ask me what the Korean name for it is, for I can neither pronounce it not spell it. When I do manage to say it, it comes out sounding like young emu. I still can't count to ten in Korean. The ability to tell the difference between ahp cha ki (front kick) and yup cha ki (side kick) eludes me until someone shows me. Again. While I can write an entire course on medical terminology, remembering that mok is my neck and moo roop refers to my knee is apparently a challenge above and beyond my talents.

it is possible that this all goes back to my generally non-existent athletic abilities paired with a completely un-deserved sense skill. I always think I can do something. I think I can hit a golf ball. I think I can hit a softball. I think I can shoot hoops. You see, I have a tendency to watch others and then, unreasonably and illogically, think to myself "how hard can that be?"

As I invariably find out, it is much harder than I ever suspected.

However, I'm not totally hopeless... and perhaps that is where the sense of "I can do that" comes from. I am a very good at street hockey. Pucks stay on the ground (usually) and are easier to hit than softballs, which insist on being airborn when I'm supposed to hit them. My whole concept of hockey is "get the puck in the net," and I do that reasonably well.

Had we had volleyball in high school, I would have played. While the volleyball isn't on the ground like a puck, I don't have to worry about swinging a bat or about aiming at some impossibly small basketball hoop. All I have to do is aim at the large space above the volleyball net -- or, I admit it, the face of the person on the other side of the net.

But as for karate? Right up there with softball, baby. A total testament to my lack of coordination. It's a nice stress reliever, but I'll never be a contender. (And I'm okay with that!)

I'll stick to tracking 500+ students and 20+ teachers on a daily basis.
Much easier than that left v.s right stuff.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't Think

There are things that I simply try not to think about, particularly when it comes to my son.

I try not to think about the night he was born and the fact that I made it to the hospital just in time. I don't like thoughts of what could have -- would have -- happened had we been just twenty minutes later.

I try not to think about the tetnus he didn't get after stepping on a rusted 40-year-old carpet nail last summer. The thin white scar on his neck -- compliments of a picket fence at Idlewild this summer -- still makes a cringe.

When he came home from a fishing trip with his dad, his nose and forehead showing evidence of a face-plant in the berber carpet (unintentional high dive off a chair in the living room), I tried not to think about his newly grown front teeth and almost knocking them out.

Last night, after he fell asleep, I went into his room and just sat on the side of his bed. For a good while, I sat there, just looking at my baby. His knee and right hand are all scraped up from (unwillingly, unintentionally) sliding along the pavement en route to the token machine at the zoo. He has a bandage on his knee, though he doesn't need it. We had a small battle over that, I admit. He likes Band-Aids, and I have the philosophy of "no blood, no bandage." Our compromise was one for his knee and none for his hand.

I feel silly now. It's just a Band-Aid. No big deal. You put them on, you take them off. Slap some antibiotic cream on whenever you have to. Everything heals and in a few days the bandage is gone. I don't know what the big deal is, really.

Social networking is wonderful for those of us who sit in the office all or most of the day. Facebook lets us "escape" just a little bit and chat with friends, post silly comments, or just send pokes back and forth. It let's the world in, too, sometimes a bit too much. A friend of mine is now watching his nephew battle an illness that no Band-Aid can cover. He's posting updates for us, drawing us into this world, showing us pictures.

I can't understand how the Fates roll their dice. I never will. But, because of those wicked mythical sisters and their whims, last night I just sat and marveled at my son. And tried very hard not to cry.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

PFEW-less in 2009

I missed PFEW Week III this year. Had to. Between my RMU class schedule, the amount of sick and vacation time accumulated, and the week that the students' summer break was scheduled, I just couldn't swing it.

For the record, it nearly killed me.

I did not get to make my usual drive to Williamsport, make my usual stops along the way, take the new route that I learned last year, wear my collection of PFEW polo shirts, hear the usual banter, or take the usual abuse about my inability to tell jokes.

I did not get to hang out with people that I have known, for over ten years. Or ten weeks, depending on how you count.

I did not get to drink responsibly in the hospitality room, stay up irresponsibly late, laugh until I could not breathe, or function on an average of six hours sleep per night for seven nights.

I did not get to tell my latest joke, one that is deliberately bad. (If I told a good one, well... my fellow CA's would probably not know what to do.)

Last but not least, I did not get to work with a team of teens who are among the best and the brightest. I did not get the privilege of seeing them grow from a group of total strangers to a team -- or from a group of not-always-so-certain kids to confident business folk.

That's okay.

After all, it's only 50 weeks until PFEW, Week III, 2010.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


4:31 a.m., cat wants fresh water in bowl, makes this known with pitter-patter of cat feet on my head

4:32 a.m., cat lands on the floor

4:33 a.m., cat jumps onto nightstand and begins to rub against lampshade to create annoying squeak-thump

4:35 a.m., cat lands on the floor again

4:40 a.m., cat begins to prowl around the bed, stalking prey (me)

4:43 a.m., cat's furry butt dragged into bathroom, tub faucet turned on, then off, cat happily drinks drips

5:01 a.m., wet cat feet squish across pillow as she demands more water

5:02 a.m., cat lands in hallway, bedroom door shuts

5:30 a.m., pitiful "mommy-why-do-you-hate-me" meowing begins, threatening to wake son

5:32 a.m., bedroom door opens, cat -- now dry -- jumps up on bed and curls up at the foot of the bed, where feet normally belong

5:40 a.m., cat lands on floor after attacking ankles as punishment for trying to get comfortable

5:41 a.m., cat back on bed, makes cautious peace with bumps under blanket that can send her back to the floor... by sleeping on them

6:17 a.m., cramp in calf forces movement for the first time since cat plopped on leg, movement causes cat to wake prematurely, retaliation comes in form of teeth

6:17 and 5 seconds, cat lands on floor again

6:18 a.m., cat returns to bed, sleeps on husband's side, continued snoring indicates that he's fine with that

7:01 a.m., cat having dream and begins meowing in sleep, waking me

7:05 a.m., cat wakes and decides it's time to start the day

7:07 a.m., jumps off bed and goes to window, pushes light-blocking curtains out of way -- admitting blinding morning sun

7:10 a.m., cat decides others must enjoy the morning and begins breathing in owner's face to wake her

7:11 a.m., owner discovers cat can't find her when she puts a pillow over her head

7:25 a.m., cover blown when son comes in wanting to play Legos

7:30 a.m., cat gets fresh water in bowl

Growing up, I had Molly, a plump little hairball of a cat who had the sweetest disposition ever. For years, she would wake up with my Dad when he got ready for work. He would feed and water her, and she would be as happy as a lark. There was always a misunderstanding, however, each weekend. He wanted to sleep past 6 a.m. and she wanted feed/watered at 6 a.m. As she got older, she got less patient. The last few years of her life were marked by a very specific pattern: on days when Daddy didn't get up at 6 a.m., she would simply prowl around the edge of the bed until he got up and did her bidding.

It's Dad's birthday today, so the fact that my cat is now (apparently) channeling Molly seems a good way to mark Dad's day.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Gav is hitting "that" age -- the one where I have to decide between sending him to the men's room alone or dragging him into the women's room with me. His six going on seven, meaning that I'm rational going on paranoid-obsessive.

Is there anyone lurking in there? Is some pervert waiting for a trusting mom to send her son in to him? Will Gavin know enough to scream and run? Or will he be just too frightened to act? How much trouble will I get in if I open the door to check on my son's safety?

Wait, do I really care about how much trouble I might get in? Not really.

I stand right outside the bathroom door, ready to leap to action and kill anyone who looks at my son "funny" and makes him nervous.

Well, really, they don't have to make him nervous. Making me nervous is about all it will take for me to push that door open and charge in. While I haven't yet, have no doubt about it, I will should I feel the need. (I've chased my son into men's dressing rooms at department stores when he was a curious toddler, so a men's restroom isn't particularly intimidating.)

It should be noted at this point that Gavin -- in spite of training by parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and teachers -- says that he "knows" what to do when approached by a stranger. He will hit him with a baseball bat. Throw him under a car. Run him over. Brake a table over his head. Throw the cat in his face. And, finally, feed him to monsters.

THEN he will run.

(No wonder I get nervous.)

Other mothers share their stories with me, which does not help. While I realize that it's good to be aware, why does every story seem to have an evil stranger haunting it?

Frankly, excluding this, I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky chick. I believe that people are generally good at heart and that more of them are likely to help than to hurt. I think that things tend to turn out right, even when it seems that they won't. I talk to strangers, and I smile at people on the street if we make eye contact. I am, probably, the sort who some would say is bound to end up on a milk carton someday.

When it comes to conferences, I hop on planes and head to big cities all by myself. Airports are adventures just waiting to happen -- so much so that I make it a point to change planes whenver possible and pick layovers in states I've yet to visit. When I drive to conferences, I seek out local mom-and-pop restaurants and invite other conference attendees. I've been known to close bars with my closest friends as well as those I met at meetings that morning. And if there's a club to be found, I'll be there.

Ah, and the stories! The culture! To be with people from other worlds who look at everything so very differently then you, whose economic systems were so defining in their lives (uh, yeah, I should probably mention that I meet the bulk of these folks at economics conferences)... it's really quite the drug to me.

I want Gavin to be like that, and he's showing signs of it already... well, that is, when he's not hiding behind me because he's shy around g-i-r-l-s. He, too, looks at everything as an adventure and won't hesistate to ask questions (unless it's a "do you want to come over and play" question, which is another blog for another day).

The trick is to teach him when to talk and when to run without terrifying him into avoiding all strangers, to teach him how to trust his gut in situtations without actually putting him in those situations to learn what a "gut feeeling" feels like.

In the meanwhile, I'll stand outside of the men's room, ready to charge at the first sign of danger. Real or imagined.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Prof. Gavin

Gavin is the eternally adorable child. For starters, he is a stick -- all arms and legs, elbows and knees. He now wears a size 7 for length, but needs a 6 for his waist. And, wonderfully, his two front teeth are now M.I.A.

We spent our Fourth of July weekend in Williamsburg, VA. It was our second trip in two years, and -- given how well things went -- if the fates work with us, we'll head back for July 4, 2010.

This time around, Gav was even more "into" the whole experience... and I'm not talking about the kids' activities (which we didn't get to this year, to be honest). He was the one front-and-center at the cabinet maker's shop asking how wooden hinges worked and how they made animal glue and what a particular hammer was for. He learned how a lock worked at the blacksmith's (but was disappointed that they weren't making nails like last year). He tried to answer the questions posed during the lantern tour we took on Friday night (only got one right, but I'm more awed by the fact that he made the attempt). He dragged us through the gardens and the flowerbeds, asking a bajillion questions, identifying the ones he knew, and trying to pick as much as he could without us noticing.

The best moment, however, was Saturday afternoon.

Because I was still a bit miserable from a lingering cold, I sent my boys on without me on Saturday morning. Sleep was a necessity -- particularly if I was going to make it to the fireworks that night. When they returned at noon, we went to lunch and then began our walk back to Colonial Williamsburg (CW).

First, however, we had to stop at the Great Hope Plantation, which is next to the Visitor's Center and en route to CW. Gav wanted to show me the piglets they had seen that morning. My boys had spent the morning there, learning a good bit about a tobacco plantation.

So, what made it so wonderful? Professor Gavin, of course.

My little man gave me the grand tour, reciting everything he'd learned that morning. He showed me the barn, the tobacco, the dried tobacco, the tools used to farm the tobacco, the piglets, the chickens, the slave quarters, the well, the smoke house, the hams in the smoke house, the tools outside of the smoke house, the cows... you get the picture. It wasn't "what's this, mom?" it was "look at this, mom, and this is what it was used for."

I am, needless to say, proud as proud can be of my young historian... particularly since all of this is innate. The husband and I had nothing to do with his decision to give mom a spontaneous history lesson. Or perhaps we had everything. Nature or nurture? Don't know, to be honest. All I know is that he was having the time of his life teaching mom everything she ever needed to know about running a tobocca plantation. And, frankly, so was I.